Military and political actors comment on Sudan army-RSF integration

Lt Gen Yasir El Ata, member of the Sovereignty Council, arriving in the South Sudanese capital for a workshop on the Juba Peace Agreement on February 13 (Photo: SUNA)


The deputy commander of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), Lt Gen Abdelrahim Dagalo, has denied rumours about possible clashes between the Sudanese army and the RSF. 

During an address to members of the RSF in Khartoum yesterday, he said: “It is impossible that our brothers in the army would raise their weapons against you.” 

He reaffirmed that the RSF stands with the long-awaited Framework Agreement signed by the military and over 40 parties in December last year. “The RSF wants one army and the reform of the military institution and its position on this will never change.” 

The Framework Agreement puts emphasis on one national professional army, committed to the unified military doctrine and carrying out its duties in the framework of protecting the nation’s borders and defending democratic civilian rule. 

He stated that recent “systematic media campaigns” about imminent clashes between the two military institutions “aim to provoke the forces, tarnish their image, and affect their morale.” 

The deputy commander pointed out that there are “rumours circulating in the media” with the aim of weakening the forces, including reducing salaries. He explained that there are measures taken by the Ministry of Finance to govern public money and these procedures include all regular forces. 

Ongoing dispute 

Abla Karrar, a leading member of the Sudanese Congress Party and the mainstream Forces for Freedom and Change, said that signing the Framework Agreement did not cause the dispute between the army and RSF. She stressed that the differences between the two parties began just after the coup d’état they jointly staged on October 25, 2021. 

The two parties have a long history of issues with integration. In the Constitutional Document signed in August 2019 by the then ruling Transitional Military Council and the opposition Forces for Freedom and Change, it was agreed that both the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and the RSF would fall under the command of the “Supreme Commander of the SAF”. At the same time, the RSF would stay a force unto itself

In an interview with Radio Dabanga, Karrar said that the statements exchanged between the two parties are an attempt to put pressure on each other to improve their negotiating positions at the beginning of the security and military reform process. 

“The Framework Agreement provided a way for the military institution to exit from politics, security and military reform, and the integration of the [RSF and former rebel fighters] forces according to an agreed upon time matrix.” 

She said that the issue of integrating the RSF into the army is one of the issues of security and military reform, although “integration alone will not lead to real military reform.” 

Imbalances in system 

There are major imbalances in the military system such as combat doctrine, empowerment, and admission to the Military College, according to Karrar. She stressed the need for admission to include all ethnicities and geographical regions. 

Legal expert Abdelahim El Nasri commented that Sudan is subject to Chapter VI of the United Nations statutes, which allows it to benefit from its capabilities to integrate armies in accordance with international standards. 

“The military institution will have to refer a large number of troops to retirement because they do not conform to the international standards for armies and ranks,” he told Radio Dabanga. “The matter really needs an in-depth study.” 

Lt Gen Yasir El Ata, member of the Sovereignty Council, said on Saturday that there is no respectable country with two armies, calling for the integration of the RSF and rebel movements into the Sudanese army. 

In a speech during a mass marriage ceremony in River Nile state, El Ata affirmed the army’s determination “to integrate the RSF and the signatories of the Juba Peace Agreement into the SAF.” 

“The threat of owning a private army for personal and economic gains could lead to the collapse of the Sudanese state,” he stated, and stressed the ability of the army “to establish security and control any irresponsible acts.” 

Demobilisation calls 

The Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), the driving force behind the December 2018 Revolution that led to the ousting of President Omar Al Bashir in April 2019, said that “the forces of the revolution call for the demobilisation of all militias,” rather than their integration into the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF). 

Speaking to Radio Dabanga, SPA spokesperson El Waleed Ali stressed the need to set a law and controls for accepting recruits into the military according to specified conditions. 

Regarding the differences between the leaders of the SAF and RSF, he said that “what unites the SAF and RSF commanders is greater than what separates them.” 

He said that “what unites them is the fear of accountability for crimes. In addition, they have common interests such as companies and institutions that are exploited for personal and regional interests.” 

Top-down issue 

Al Jazeera Net reported on Saturday that these statements come amid reports of disagreements between SAF commander and head of the Sovereignty Council, Lt Gen Abdelfattah El Burhan, head of the Sovereign Council, and RSF commander and deputy head of the Sovereignty Council, Lt Gen Mohamed ‘Hemeti’ Dagalo. 

Sources reported last week that El Burhan intends to dissolve the Sovereignty Council and form a Supreme Council of the Armed Forces under his presidency, until a final agreement with the civilian opposition is reached on a new sovereign level and a new prime minister is appointed, with the aim of reducing Hemeti’s influence. 

El Ata acknowledged the existence of a disagreement between the commanders of the army and the RSF, and not between the two forces, stressing that there would be no clashes between them.